Microsoft will add Surface Pro 3 Pen pressure calibration tool in the coming months

People who buy the Surface Pro 3 from Microsoft can also check out some new accessories, such as a pen that will only work with the 12-inch tablet. Today, Microsoft offered some information on the creation of the pen, including word of an update that should make using it easier.

In a post on the official Surface blog, Microsoft announced plans for a pressure calibration tool that will be added as part of the Control Panel. The blog stated, ""This will allow you to customize the pressure curve and tip feel to get the most subtle and personalized brush strokes." The tool does not have a specific release date yet, with Microsoft saying only that it will be released "in the coming months".

The blog also gives some behind-the-scenes information on how the Surface Pro 3 Pen was created. Accuracy on the tablet's screen has been improved compared to the pen support for the Surface Pro 2, with Microsoft saying that inputs can now be tracked "to the edges of the display."

Running different apps on the Surface Pro 3 can also result in different drivers that need to be used for pen support. Some apps will use the more modern Windows Ink API while others will require downloading and installing the Wintab drivers. Those are available for download already, but keep in mind the first models of the Surface Pro 3 won't be shipped to the general public until June 30th.

Source: Microsoft | Image via Microsoft

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As a Surface Pro owner since February this year, I found the stylus frequently unusable. Then read an article here several weeks ago about downloading new drivers from Intel and installing the Wacom Pen software. Amazing! The pen works exactly as expected and a treat to use. I think it was Brad who published the article and work-around to installing the correct drivers.

I watched the surface 3 presentation and was flabbergasted when Panay mentioned pen inaccuracies, etc. Maybe even HE isn't aware of the existing fix??? Bizarre.

I don't suppose you can post that information here again... I've never seen it, and I have an old Surface Pro 1 that might benefit.

Islehopper said,
As a Surface Pro owner since February this year, I found the stylus frequently unusable. Then read an article here several weeks ago about downloading new drivers from Intel and installing the Wacom Pen software. Amazing! The pen works exactly as expected and a treat to use. I think it was Brad who published the article and work-around to installing the correct drivers.

I watched the surface 3 presentation and was flabbergasted when Panay mentioned pen inaccuracies, etc. Maybe even HE isn't aware of the existing fix??? Bizarre.

As stated above in other comments, inaccuracies with Wacom are mostly hardware driven, not software.
That the first Wacom drivers for the Pro1 were shoddy at best isn't a secret, and way too late.
Any new versions after that improved the experience a lot.

I'm very interested in the Pro3, and the N-Trig screen is something I'm looking forward to read more about in the next weeks/months.

The Pro3 goes on sale over here at the end of August, so I have time to sell my Surface2 and start saving for the difference ;-)

What's that stuff at the hinge on the picture? It looks like exposed wires or something. Doesn't look quite right.

deadonthefloor said,
Seriously though, is N-Trig comparable to Wacom?

I'm waiting for a serious analysis before putting in my pre-order.

Same here, this is the only reason I don't mind about the three months waiting...

The older ones no, they're worse in every way except the better accuracy at the edges of the screen.

It's possible they have a new generation that doesn't suck and that the SP3 is the first to use. But I doubt it.

Cosmocronos said,

Same here, this is the only reason I don't mind about the three months waiting...

The typical Microsoft reporters were talking about this on Windows Weekly yesterday.

There is evidence that the majority of people don't even have the capability of using 1024 levels of sensitivity nor can they tell the difference, WinSuperSite should have a comparison after June 30th ( or perhaps before since he has a unit already ) and compare the two pens. My guess the majority of use cases it won't matter.

TheGhostPhantom said,

The typical Microsoft reporters were talking about this on Windows Weekly yesterday.

There is evidence that the majority of people don't even have the capability of using 1024 levels of sensitivity nor can they tell the difference, WinSuperSite should have a comparison after June 30th ( or perhaps before since he has a unit already ) and compare the two pens. My guess the majority of use cases it won't matter.

Actually I have used Tablet PCs for years and all of them used Wacom digitizers which, even with XP Tablet OS, were excellent; I tried a Dell Mini and the only reason I did not buy it was the very poor performing handwriting. I cannot care what other people do, I spend my money for what satisfy my personal needs regardless of the brand.

TheGhostPhantom said,

The typical Microsoft reporters were talking about this on Windows Weekly yesterday.

There is evidence that the majority of people don't even have the capability of using 1024 levels of sensitivity nor can they tell the difference, WinSuperSite should have a comparison after June 30th ( or perhaps before since he has a unit already ) and compare the two pens. My guess the majority of use cases it won't matter.

Number of pressure sensitivity levels isn't the old difference between Wacom and N-Trig.

Other differences with the ones I've used
Wacom doesn't need batteries
Wacom has a higher refresh rate
Wacom has a higher resolution
N-Trig tracks better near the edge of the screen (Wacom is pretty bad at the edges)
N-Trig has VERY HIGH latency when the pen isn't touching the screen (speeds up when it is touching)

Cosmocronos said,

Actually I have used Tablet PCs for years and all of them used Wacom digitizers which, even with XP Tablet OS, were excellent; I tried a Dell Mini and the only reason I did not buy it was the very poor performing handwriting. I cannot care what other people do, I spend my money for what satisfy my personal needs regardless of the brand.

Were talking about 256 vs 1024 sensitivity levels.

Lets be specific in that statement. The test will be is if you can tell the difference between a Windows 8.1 tablet with 256 levels and 1024 levels.

My guess based on the source, based on market research, most people won't be able to actually use past a certain level except a very small percent of users.

TheGhostPhantom said,

Were talking about 256 vs 1024 sensitivity levels.

Lets be specific in that statement. The test will be is if you can tell the difference between a Windows 8.1 tablet with 256 levels and 1024 levels.

My guess based on the source, based on market research, most people won't be able to actually use past a certain level except a very small percent of users.

Fact is.... I was not; as others have pointed out my concerns about theN-Trig vice the Wacom are based on the poor performance of the former using it for handwriting, again the main reason I switched to the Tablet concept as soon as they shipped.

Cosmocronos said,

Fact is.... I was not; as others have pointed out my concerns about theN-Trig vice the Wacom are based on the poor performance of the former using it for handwriting, again the main reason I switched to the Tablet concept as soon as they shipped.

You have not even tried it.

Lets wait and see.

deadonthefloor said,
Seriously though, is N-Trig comparable to Wacom?

I'm waiting for a serious analysis before putting in my pre-order.

There is every chance it will be better.

People forget that Wacom was once the 'underdog' digitizer supplier years ago, and, a couple of companies that made superior hardware lost the market to Wacom. Their 'branding' is popular because of their software support early on, not because their hardware was better.


Wacom has advantages with no battery, but some of these features come at a cost. In non-controlled environments, using the screen as the power loop can create interference and less accurate pen tracking, which is more of an issue on a 'mobile' tablet than a desk 'tablet accessory'.

The pressure level difference 256 v 1024 is not something that even most artists can distinguish, as the incremental variance is too tiny.

Microsoft has also worked to reduce screen and pen latency once again, going beyond what Wacom is currently offering even on their high end dedicated digitizing devices.

It is a wait and see, but with the attention Microsoft has given to the hardware and software the actual 'brand' is probably no longer relevant.

Mobius Enigma said,

The pressure level difference 256 v 1024 is not something that even most artists can distinguish, as the incremental variance is too tiny.

Microsoft has also worked to reduce screen and pen latency once again, going beyond what Wacom is currently offering even on their high end dedicated digitizing devices.

It is a wait and see, but with the attention Microsoft has given to the hardware and software the actual 'brand' is probably no longer relevant.


Pressure sensitivity does matter, but it really depends on the type of pen tip. Once I switched from generic pen on my old tablet pc (with 256 levels) to Intuos type pen with 1024 levels and additional button the difference was way obvious, but mostly because I also installed the tip with spring which makes it much smoother to press and gives precise control over those 1024 levels of pressure.

x.iso said,

Pressure sensitivity does matter, but it really depends on the type of pen tip. Once I switched from generic pen on my old tablet pc (with 256 levels) to Intuos type pen with 1024 levels and additional button the difference was way obvious, but mostly because I also installed the tip with spring which makes it much smoother to press and gives precise control over those 1024 levels of pressure.

I'll be waiting for the Samsung Galaxy Art S with 65536 levels of pressure and 12 inch 15360x8640 display.

I'm very confused... Why is this WinTab driver a separate download? Shouldn't the drivers all come with the system out of the box? Further more, why is it on another site? And not on a universal "Surface Pro 3" drivers page on Microsoft's website?

Very strange for a device aimed at being premium...

But otherwise, looks like it will be an interesting launch. I will keep my eyes on how this develops.

LogicalApex said,
I'm very confused... Why is this WinTab driver a separate download? Shouldn't the drivers all come with the system out of the box? Further more, why is it on another site? And not on a universal "Surface Pro 3" drivers page on Microsoft's website?

Very strange for a device aimed at being premium...

But otherwise, looks like it will be an interesting launch. I will keep my eyes on how this develops.

Those aren't MS or Windows drivers, they're not the default OS Ink drivers, they're from NTrig, which is the Pen makers. While I'm sure they're going to have a set with the SP3 installed when it comes out they're no different from say, chipset or video card drivers, those get updated from their respective hardware makers, not MS. That's what WinTab drivers are, compared to the Windows Ink API which is part of the OS and from MS directly.

George P said,

Those aren't MS or Windows drivers, they're not the default OS Ink drivers, they're from NTrig, which is the Pen makers. While I'm sure they're going to have a set with the SP3 installed when it comes out they're no different from say, chipset or video card drivers, those get updated from their respective hardware makers, not MS. That's what WinTab drivers are, compared to the Windows Ink API which is part of the OS and from MS directly.

Yeah, but reference drivers don't usually add extra functionality and aren't usually recommended by the OEM. In this case, the reference driver is adding functionality (WinTab driver) and is being recommended by the OEM to users. Just seems very odd to me.

George P said,

Those aren't MS or Windows drivers, they're not the default OS Ink drivers, they're from NTrig, which is the Pen makers. While I'm sure they're going to have a set with the SP3 installed when it comes out they're no different from say, chipset or video card drivers, those get updated from their respective hardware makers, not MS. That's what WinTab drivers are, compared to the Windows Ink API which is part of the OS and from MS directly.

Furthermore, Wacom also posts their drivers on their website, and as you point out any updates will be handled through Windows Update more then likely and/or supplied and only would require a manual installation if you wanted to A) Install a newer version then MS released or B) You were forced to install Windows 8.1 again from scratch.

http://us.wacom.com/en/feeldriver/

LogicalApex said,
I'm very confused... Why is this WinTab driver a separate download? Shouldn't the drivers all come with the system out of the box? Further more, why is it on another site? And not on a universal "Surface Pro 3" drivers page on Microsoft's website?

Very strange for a device aimed at being premium...

But otherwise, looks like it will be an interesting launch. I will keep my eyes on how this develops.

1) Its separate because the Surface Pro 3 hasn't been released yet.
2) Its separate because thats what device manufactures have done since 1982 with Microsoft operating systems.
3) It will be included and likely updated through Windows Update just like Microsoft releases generic display drivers through Windows Update for Nvidia and AMD products.

Furthermore Microsoft has added in Pen support into Windows, so the drivers are only required, if the program you want has not been updated to support specifically Windows 8.

The last part is the fact there isn't a "Microsoft Surface" driver website everything required is handled through Windows Update. There is a firmware download website only because thats requires for the non-Pro Surface product lines for numerous reasons.

On a separate note, NTrigs website, is three for four times easier to navigate I am impressed

TheGhostPhantom said,

1) Its separate because the Surface Pro 3 hasn't been released yet.
2) Its separate because thats what device manufactures have done since 1982 with Microsoft operating systems.
3) It will be included and likely updated through Windows Update just like Microsoft releases generic display drivers through Windows Update for Nvidia and AMD products.

Furthermore Microsoft has added in Pen support into Windows, so the drivers are only required, if the program you want has not been updated to support specifically Windows 8.

The last part is the fact there isn't a "Microsoft Surface" driver website everything required is handled through Windows Update. There is a firmware download website only because thats requires for the non-Pro Surface product lines for numerous reasons.

On a separate note, NTrigs website, is three for four times easier to navigate I am impressed

Not sure what machines you've been buying, but every Windows machine I have ever purchased from an OEM comes with all the drivers baked in out of the box. The only time I was ever going to be seeking out drivers on the device maker's site (such as Synaptics or Nvidia) was when I wanted a leaner driver or a newer driver. I wasn't required to ever go to these sites to enable functionality. I never went to them to get advertised functionality on Day 1. This is all I'm saying is strange in this case...

It appears this driver is to offer "legacy" pen support to apps that haven't updated to the new API which uses a driver MS does ship. But this appears to be a driver that should be baked in to provide this legacy support Out of Box (OOB). Especially since MS took the time to even mention an app that will need this Day 1.

LogicalApex said,

Not sure what machines you've been buying, but every Windows machine I have ever purchased from an OEM comes with all the drivers baked in out of the box. The only time I was ever going to be seeking out drivers on the device maker's site (such as Synaptics or Nvidia) was when I wanted a leaner driver or a newer driver. I wasn't required to ever go to these sites to enable functionality. I never went to them to get advertised functionality on Day 1. This is all I'm saying is strange in this case...

It appears this driver is to offer "legacy" pen support to apps that haven't updated to the new API which uses a driver MS does ship. But this appears to be a driver that should be baked in to provide this legacy support Out of Box (OOB). Especially since MS took the time to even mention an app that will need this Day 1.

The driver will be. This is for those people that need it because they had to install their operating system again.

( If you take a look at the NTrig website other OEMs are also listed, so this isn't unusual ). As I pointed out the Wacom drivers were also on the manufactures website.

The only SP3 are preview units, the driver was released May 2014, my guess they were published on the 22nd or 21st to avoid spoilers.

LogicalApex said,

Yeah, but reference drivers don't usually add extra functionality and aren't usually recommended by the OEM. In this case, the reference driver is adding functionality (WinTab driver) and is being recommended by the OEM to users. Just seems very odd to me.

I think because in this case it's app specific, some apps are using that to add features/support, it depends on the app.